The food and drink choices you make every day affect your health now and later in life. A balanced eating pattern is a cornerstone of health. 

Choosing healthy foods and drinks more often can help prevent or manage many health problems that affect women. And studies show that when a woman eats healthy, everyone in her household is more likely to eat healthy.

Nutrition is essential for growth and development, health and well-being. Eating a healthy diet contributes to preventing future illness and death. Dietary factors are associated with leading causes of death among women, such as coronary heart disease, some types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition is defined as the processes by which an animal or plant takes in and utilizes food substances. Essential nutrients include protein, carbohydrate and fat in varying amounts, and electrolytes. Normally, 85% of daily energy use is from fat and carbohydrates, and 15% is from protein.

Women should enjoy a variety of healthful foods from all of the foods groups, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein. But women also have special nutrient needs, and, during each stage of a woman’s life, these needs change.

Eating Right

Nutrient-rich foods provide energy for women’s busy lives and help to reduce the risk of disease. A healthy eating plan regularly includes:

  • At least three ounce-equivalents of whole grains – whole-grain bread, whole-wheat cereal flakes, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or oats.
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products including milk, yogurt or cheese; or calcium-fortified soymilk. (Non-dairy sources of calcium for people who do not consume dairy products include calcium-fortified foods and beverages, canned fish and some leafy greens.)
  • Five to 5-and-a-half ounce-equivalents of protein foods such as lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and seeds.
  • One-and-a-half to two cups of fruits — fresh, frozen, canned or dried without added sugars.
  • Two to two-and-a-half cups of colorful vegetables — fresh, frozen or canned without added salt

In this blog by StayHappi, we will look at the key nutrition requirements for women, including key vitamins and minerals:

1. Iron

When women reach childbearing age, blood loss through menstruation can lead to iron deficiency or anemia. For this reason, women will usually require more iron than men. Iron is important to good health, but the amount needed is different depending on a woman’s stage of life. For example, iron needs are higher during pregnancy and lower after reaching menopause.

Iron can be found in a range of foods, including meat, chicken, turkey, pork, fish and poultry and non-animal products (plant – based) such as spinach, lentils and fortified breads and cereals, nuts & seeds and dry fruits. Vitamin C will help your body to absorb more iron, so you should also look to include foods that are rich in this vitamin, such as broccoli, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Recommendation –

  • Females between 19-50 years old – 18mg daily
  • Females above 51 years old – 8mg daily

2. Calcium

Another key mineral for women nutrition is calcium. Although the recommended intake of calcium is almost same for men and women, as women consume fewer calories, the proportion is larger. For healthy bones and teeth, women need to eat a variety of calcium-rich foods every day. As women start to lose bone density from age 35 onwards, and are thought to be more prone to developing conditions such as osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and break easily. This is especially the case after the menopause period, as calcium requirements typically increase.

Foods that contain calcium include dairy products, green leafy vegetables, nuts, soya beans and fish where you eat the bones (i.e. sardines).Some calcium-rich foods also include low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese, tofu (if made with calcium sulfate) and calcium-fortified foods and beverages, such as plant-based milk alternatives, juices and cereals.

Recommendations:

• Females between 19-50 years old – 1,000mg daily
• Females above 51 years old – 1,200mg daily

3. Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium from foods. Adequate amounts of vitamin D also are important, and the need for both calcium and vitamin D increases as women get older. While most of this comes from sunlight, women can include vitamin D in their diet by taking foods rich in it.

Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, such as salmon, eggs and fortified foods and beverages, like milk, as well as some plant-based milk alternatives, yogurts and juices.

4. Folic Acid

Folic acid (or folate, the name for its natural form) is essential for both women and men. Folic acid becomes especially important for women when they become pregnant. This is because folic acid helps to reduce the risk of birth defects such as spina bifida in unborn babies.

The requirement for women who are not pregnant is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. If you are not consuming enough folic acid, you may develop folate deficiency anemia, which can make you feel unwell. Experts recommend that adults consume 0.2mg of folic acid per day, which can be found in foods such as asparagus, peas, brown rice, eggs, spinach and Brussels sprouts, oranges, leafy green vegetables, beans and peas, will help increase your intake of this B vitamin. There also are many foods that are fortified with folic acid, such as breakfast cereals, some rice and breads. Eating a variety of foods is recommended to help meet nutrient needs, but a dietary supplement with folic acid also may be necessary. This is especially true for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, since their daily need for folate is higher, 600 mcg and 500 mcg per day, respectively. If you are unsure, please seek professional advice and/or speak to your GP. 

5. Protein

Protein is very important for the production, maintenance and repair of tissues in the body, especially females. When energy intake is insufficient, protein intake must be raised. This is because ingested proteins are preferentially directed towards pathways of glucose (sugar) synthesis and oxidation. For adult females, the recommended dietary allowance for protein is about 0.6 g/kg body weight per day. Animal proteins tend to include highest amounts of proteins, followed by legumes (beans), cereals (rice, wheat, corn), and roots. 

6. Fats

Fats are a concentrated and rich source of energy. It is recommended that fat intake totals no more than 30% of calories in women. Polyunsaturated fats should be limited to less than 10% of calories, and saturated and trans-fats together to less than 10%. The rest of your fat intake should consist of monounsaturated fats.

7. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates generally make up at least 55% of total calories. The brain is a special part of the body which depends primarily on glucose for its energy and requires about 100 g/day of glucose for fuel. In some situations, the body can compensate for decreased levels of carbohydrates by using alternative energy pathways, such as burning fatty acids.

“Eat like queens ladies, because that is what each one of us is. Your health is very important not just for you but for the wellbeing of your family also. So Eat Healthy, Drink Lots and Stay Happy Always.”